Saturday, October 23, 2021

Kenya school gives second chance to teen mums forced out of classes

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NYERI, Kenya – The sounds of baby coos and teenage giggles punctuate the lessons at Serene Haven Secondary, a school nestled into a hill below cloud-ringed Mount Kenya.

Here, 17 teenage mothers and pregnant girls – many of whom were forced out of their local schools – are getting a second chance to finish their education.

In a normal year, stigma, logistics and money compel around 13,000 pregnant girls to drop out, government data show. That is likely to spike this year.

COVID-19 lockdowns shut schools and fuelled an increase in adolescent pregnancies and sexual abuse, aid agencies say.

Emily, a tall 17-year-old, said she was assaulted by a man who had promised to tutor her while classes were closed. She asked not to be identified by her full name to protect her privacy.


“My mum could not let me go back to school,” said Emily, who is six months pregnant. “She was worried … they would be mean to me or tease me.”

Then Emily met Elizabeth Wanjiru Muriuki, an animated former social worker, who founded a judgment-free boarding school with daycare and counseling services. Serene Haven opened in January when other Kenyan schools reopened.

The young mothers wander through the library and other school buildings with their babies in their arms. There is a matron on hand when needed and breastfeeding breaks between lessons.

Serene Haven secondary school founder Elizabeth Wanjiru talks to Josephine Wanjiru, 19, who carries her child outside a dormitory at the Serene Haven secondary school in Nyeri, Kenya January 20, 2021.Reuters

“We only have three babies who are over one year old.

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